INFINITE IMPROBABILITY: Marvel dominates the Comic-Con conversation

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First Posted: 7/23/2013

There was a time when news of a Superman/Batman crossover film would have trumped anything else on geeks’ minds, but that was before “The Avengers.”

It’s pretty safe to say that Marvel Comics dominated San Diego Comic-Con International this year, trumping even the news that Supes and the Dark Knight would finally meet on the big screen in the sequel to this year’s “Man of Steel” after teaming up together in comics and cartoons for decades. While I didn’t get to attend (New York Comic Con is the biggest con I’ll tackle in 2013), it was clear from all the online coverage that my favorite comic company ruled the weekend with news on several of its upcoming movies.

The most prominent, of course, was the reveal of the full title of “Avengers 2” – “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This may seem like it reveals quite a bit about the direction of the 2015 sequel, but writer/director Joss Whedon and company put to bed a lot of rumors right away. Ultron, the living automaton, was created by Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, in the comics, but this version of the evil robot will feature a different origin, likely to allow the makers of the upcoming Ant-Man movie some creative space. And to make matters even more confusing, the film is only taking the title from the recent “Age of Ultron” story arc and will not be adapted from it.

Where is Thanos during all of this, the villain hinted at in the end of the first movie? Questions have been answered, sure, but many more arise, like where additional characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch fit in to all this. But a good Comic-Con tease only whets your appetite for more, and boy did they do just that.

The X-Men cast and crew were also present to talk about “Days of Future Past,” Fox’s next installment in the X-franchise, bringing with them a lit-up Sentinel head and Trask (their creator, played by Peter Dinklage) promotional materials. The robots (artificial intelligence must have rubbed someone in Hollywood the wrong way recently) will wipe out mutants, as well as mankind, in the future if our heroes can’t stop them.

This movie will be taking liberties with the source material as well, allowing a crossover between the younger actors from 2011’s “First Class” and the older actors from the original trilogy. Considering all the promotion this thing has been getting lately, this wasn’t as much a surprise as “Avengers,” but the panel seemed like a lot of fun.

Andrew Garfield had a lot of fun at his panel as well, staying in character as Spider-Man (complete with full costume) for the entire thing and acting starstruck next to co-star Jamie Foxx while Tom Hiddleston terrorized another panel as Loki. The entire “Agents of SHIELD” pilot was shown, which will continue the story of the secret agents from “The Avengers” on the small screen, and it received rave reviews. Fans also finally got a good, solid look at “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel’s 2014 wild card film based on one of their more obscure properties. From the images and descriptions of footage I’ve seen, it sounds like it’s shaping up to be the fun, quirky space romp that it should be with James Gunn (“Slither,” “Super”) at the helm. I had little doubt that this one would surprise everyone, and from all I’ve read, it’s shaping up nicely even just a few weeks into shooting.

DC, on the other hand, announced that along with its “Man of Steel” sequel (which will not have Christian Bale returning as Batman), they would be working on a Flash movie, which shocked many fans who assumed Wonder Woman would come first. With Whedon working at Marvel exclusively over the next several years, they’re probably still kicking themselves that they didn’t get let him just adapt Diana years ago like he was supposed to. While it’s a tricky property to handle, it’s funny how they think that making a two-hour film about a guy who runs really fast will be easier than reintroducing the character who successfully carried a popular TV show and paved the way for generations of superheroines.

“Justice League” is now getting bumped to 2017, which will allow more production time but not much room to introduce so many new characters. And does that lackluster “Green Lantern” movie from 2011 fit into all this somewhere? Whereas Marvel left fanboys drooling, DC seems to have sparked debates and arguments regarding the future of their cinematic universe. Do you rush a Justice League movie to compete with Marvel and score the quick cash or do you start building up to it in the hopes of a bigger payoff down the road? I would suggest the latter, but that doesn’t seem to be the direction they’re headed, and without any big casting announcements or anything other than a Batman/Superman logo to keep anticipation high, the future doesn’t seem as bright for the Super Friends.

Maybe they can borrow some time-traveling mutants and fix their clouded continuity. If Fox can still get people excited about their X-Men films after screwing them up so badly with “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” then there’s always hope that with the right creative team, you too can rule Comic-Con.

Better luck next year, DC.

-Rich Howells is a lifelong Marvel Comics collector, wannabe Jedi master, and cult film fan. E-mail him at [email protected]